How Police Officers Seize Cash From Innocent Americans

Under civil forfeiture laws, police officers can take money from people with no proof of any wrongdoing, and without filing criminal charges. How does this work, and what happens to the money?

In the United States, the government uses two methods to seize cash or other property. The first, criminal forfeiture, requires that a person be convicted of a crime before his/her property is taken. The second, civil forfeiture, requires neither a conviction nor any proof of wrongdoing. Here, action is taken against a specific piece of property rather than a person

While the police only occasionally took advantage of civil forfeiture in the early 20th century, it truly exploded in popularity in the 1980s, with the rise of the War on Drugs. … The goal was to systematically dismantle the drug world by seizing cash. In the zeal of this anti-drug atmosphere, the low burden of proof required of civil forfeiture seizures was seen as an asset.

Beyond the troubling effects civil forfeiture has on innocent people, the law is inherently problematic: since the profits of these seizures are kicked back to the departments overseeing them, they have an incentive to ramp up their practices — often without professional discretion.

Source: How Police Officers Seize Cash From Innocent Americans

Drones, Valor, and the Future of the Military – The Atlantic

Traditional definitions of valor don’t always account for the practitioners of advanced war-fighting tactics.

Without the enemy’s reciprocal ability to kill, war becomes a particularly brutal form of martial law.

Source: Drones, Valor, and the Future of the Military – The Atlantic


From Comments:

Hasn’t war always been that?

Certainly at some level(s), yes. But logistics challenges, local terrain/survival knowledge, and firearms all provided some aspects of levelling the battlefield — the kind of levelling that permitted the idea of “nation state borders” to exist even conceptually. That relative levelling (e.g. the infeasible logistics of Romania getting invaded and conquered by China in 1800, the financial and human costs of war even in victory) was quite shaken up with the advent of nuclear weapons, and I think they are getting shaken up again by remote warfare capabilities.

The American people were appalled by the Vietnam war and heavily protested it. They protested the Iraq war but mostly forgot about it after a few years. How could a war conducted exclusively remotely and perhaps a few hundred special operations soldiers have anything close to the same domestic impact as a war with significant citizen participation and casualty figures? Can a civilian population practically be mobilized to risk their personal safety to protest a foreign war that directly impacts only their wallets, not their children’s/communities’ lives?

And, like nuclear weapons, planetary-scale deployment of risk-free remote warfare capabilities will belong to relatively few nations (although local deployment will probably become commonplace).

In some ways, it seems like the post-modern incarnation of the proxy war — use armed drones and other remote weaponry instead of funding and supplying an intermediate nation or non-state actor.

“Internet of Things” security is hilariously broken and getting worse | Ars Technica

Shodan crawls the Internet at random looking for IP addresses with open ports. If an open port lacks authentication and streams a video feed, the new script takes a snap and moves on.

While the privacy implications here are obvious, Shodan’s new image feed also highlights the pathetic state of IoT security, and raises questions about what we are going to do to fix the problem.

Source: “Internet of Things” security is hilariously broken and getting worse | Ars Technica


If something advertises itself as “IoT” or “part of the Internet of Things”, you probably do not want it. Assume that whatever it does is completely public to the entire world.

Does it let you see some video from your phone? Assume that video is also broadcast to the rest of the world.

Does it let you turn your home security system on and off from your phone? Assume that everyone else with a phone can also turn that system on or off.

Does it let you change your thermostat from a web page while you’re at work? Or locate your car? Or notify you of pills grandpa didn’t take out of that smart pillbox? Assume everyone else on the internet also has access to that information and those controls.

After Hatton Garden, is it still possible to get away with a heist?

The Hatton Garden raid was meticulous in its planning, dazzling in its complexity – yet still the perpetrators were caught. In this interconnected age, has the Hollywood-style heist become a thing of the past?

Source: After Hatton Garden, is it still possible to get away with a heist?


If heists become widely understood to be impossible, is this the beginning of the end of heist movies. Will there never be an Ocean’s 11 style movie set in a sci-fi future? What about a “The Great Rocket Robbery”? I want to read a story about a small group that manages to steal an entire asteroid made of gold!

BBC – Future – The man who studies the spread of ignorance

How do people or companies with vested interests spread ignorance and obfuscate knowledge? … agnotology

Agnotology is the study of wilful acts to spread confusion and deceit, usually to sell a product or win favour

Source: BBC – Future – The man who studies the spread of ignorance


“While some smart people will profit from all the information now just a click away, many will be misled into a false sense of expertise. My worry is not that we are losing the ability to make up our own minds, but that it’s becoming too easy to do so. We should consult with others much more than we imagine. Other people may be imperfect as well, but often their opinions go a long way toward correcting our own imperfections, as our own imperfect expertise helps to correct their errors.”

— David Dunning

Life is Short

Having kids showed me how to convert a continuous quantity, time, into discrete quantities. You only get 52 weekends with your 2 year old. If Christmas-as-magic lasts from say ages 3 to 10, you only get to watch your child experience it 8 times.

If life is short, we should expect its shortness to take us by surprise. And that is just what tends to happen. You take things for granted, and then they’re gone. You think you can always write that book, or climb that mountain, or whatever, and then you realize the window has closed. The saddest windows close when other people die. Their lives are short too.

One heuristic for distinguishing stuff that matters is to ask yourself whether you’ll care about it in the future. Fake stuff that matters usually has a sharp peak of seeming to matter. That’s how it tricks you. The area under the curve is small, but its shape jabs into your consciousness like a pin.

Cultivate a habit of impatience about the things you most want to do. Don’t wait before climbing that mountain or writing that book or visiting your mother. You don’t need to be constantly reminding yourself why you shouldn’t wait. Just don’t wait.

Source: Life is Short, by Paul Graham

Doomsday prepping for less crazy folk

the purpose of this guide is to combat the mindset of learned helplessness by promoting simple, level-headed, personal preparedness techniques that are easy to implement, don’t cost much, and will probably help you cope with whatever life throws your way

Effective preparedness planning can be simple, but it has to be rooted in an honest and systematic review of the risks you are likely to face. Plenty of preppers begin by shopping for ballistic vests and night vision goggles; they would be better served by grabbing a fire extinguisher, some bottled water, and then putting the rest of their money in a rainy-day fund.

It’s always fun to speculate about solar flares and supervolcanoes; it’s far more mind-numbing to seriously evaluate the consequences of backed up sewage or burst water mains. But in reality, such unglamorous, small-scale incidents are far more likely to disrupt and reshape our lives.

Source: Doomsday prepping for less crazy folk

The resolution of the Bitcoin experiment

despite knowing that Bitcoin could fail all along, the now inescapable conclusion that it has failed still saddens me greatly. The fundamentals are broken and whatever happens to the price in the short term, the long term trend should probably be downwards. I will no longer be taking part in Bitcoin development and have sold all my coins.

It has failed because the community has failed. … the network is on the brink of technical collapse. The mechanisms that should have prevented this outcome have broken down, and as a result there’s no longer much reason to think Bitcoin can actually be better than the existing financial system.

When misinformed investors lose money, government attention frequently follows.

Source: The resolution of the Bitcoin experiment, by Mike Hearn

The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems – The Development Set

“If you’re young, privileged, and interested in creating a life of meaning, of course you’d be attracted to solving problems that seem urgent and readily solvable.”

pretend, for a moment, that you are a 22-year-old college student in Kampala, Uganda. … You’ve never been to America. But you’ve certainly heard a lot about gun violence in the U.S. It seems like a new mass shooting happens every week.

You wonder if you could go there and get stricter gun legislation passed. You’d be a hero to the American people, a problem-solver, a lifesaver. How hard could it be? Maybe there’s a fellowship for high-minded people like you to go to America after college and train as social entrepreneurs. You could start the nonprofit organization that ends mass shootings, maybe even win a humanitarian award by the time you are 30.

Sound hopelessly naïve? Maybe even a little deluded? It is. And yet, it’s not much different from how too many Americans think about social change in the “Global South.”

I’ve begun to think about this trend as the reductive seduction of other people’s problems. It’s not malicious. In many ways, it’s psychologically defensible; we don’t know what we don’t know. … but it can be reckless. For two reasons. First, it’s dangerous for the people whose problems you’ve mistakenly diagnosed as easily solvable. … Second, the reductive seduction of other people’s problems is dangerous for the people whose problems you’ve avoided.

Source: The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems – The Development Set